Monday, March 17, 2008

PowerPoint presentations damage your brain. If you look at too many, you become immoral.

--- Yossi Vardi, Israeli entrepreneur, quoted in Nick Paumgarten, "Smart, Useless", The New Yorker, 16 Oct 2006 - an article about Gadgetoff, an annual convocation of gear-heads. Found via a Vardi profile in The Economist, 5 Jan 2008.

Quote in context:

"The person who perhaps best embodied the smart-and-useless parameter was Yossi Vardi, the tech investor and distinguished prankster, who had come to New York from Israel with his older brother Didi. Vardi, who is sixty-four, helped found ICQ, the Instant Messaging program. When asked what he planned to do with his three and a half minutes, he said, “I’m going to demonstrate how you can transfer data faster with snails than with broadband.” He said that he had sixty PowerPoint slides, but, he warned, “PowerPoint presentations damage your brain. If you look at too many, you become immoral.

"In the church, he presented meticulously researched, technically correct, but completely ridiculous charts and graphs. He compared various data-transfer systems: ISDN, ADSL, Wi-Fly (that is, pigeons). Then he showed a slide of a snail hitched to a tiny chariot with DVDs for wheels. If each disk contains 4.7 gigabytes of data, and if the snail (chasing a scrap of lettuce) travels at 0.000023 metres per second, the snail-system performance rate is over thirty-seven megabits per second. That blows ADSL out of the water. (There are flaws, however. As Vardi noted, “In some regions, most notably France, culinary habits may pose a denial-of-service problem.”) Dubno rang a bell and shooed Vardi from the stage."

Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful

--- Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway 2004 Chairman's Letter (PDF)

Quote in context:

"Over the 35 years, American business has delivered terrific results. It should therefore have been easy for investors to earn juicy returns: All they had to do was piggyback Corporate America in a diversified, low-expense way. An index fund that they never touched would have done the job. Instead many investors have had experiences ranging from mediocre to disastrous.

"There have been three primary causes: first, high costs, usually because investors traded excessively or spent far too much on investment management; second, portfolio decisions based on tips and fads rather than on thoughtful, quantified evaluation of businesses; and third, a start-and-stop approach to the market marked by untimely entries (after an advance has been long underway) and exits (after periods of stagnation or decline). Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies. And if they insist on trying to time their participation in equities, they should try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful."

Themistocles was no angel...

Brian Strauss, The Battle of Salamis (Simon & Schuster, 2004) p. 13

Full quote:

Themistocles was brilliant, farsighted, creative, tireless, magnanimous, courageous, and eloquent. Yet it as also true that during the course of his career he lied, cheated, blustered, and threatened; grabbed credit for others' ideas; manipulated religion; took bribes and extorted protection money; served up insults and pursued vendetta; and ended his days in exile, a traitor. In short, Themistocles was no angel, but seraphim could not have saved the Greeks.

Nothing is true in tactics

--- Commander Randy "Duke" Cunningham, U.S. Navy, Vietnam, as cited in Robert L. Shaw, Fighter Combat, Tactics and Maneuvering (Naval Institute Press, 1985), x, as cited in Brian Strauss, The Battle of Salamis (Simon & Schuster, 2004), footnote on p. 176

This has been interpreted to mean that each and every fight has it's own special set of circumstances (here), or that everything is relative to the particular situation.

The US Constitution assumes that the chief executive will work to be king . . .

"The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches."

David Mamet, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal': An election-season essay", Village Voice, March 11th, 2008